Tetzaveh - Reaching Higher

"Make an alter to burn incense out of acacia wood. It shall be square, a cubit long and a cubit wide, and 2 cubits high, including its horns. Cover it with a layer of pure gold, on its top, its walls all around, and its horns. Make a gold rim all around it."
Shmot 30:1

The Ramban asks, why does the construction of the inner alter appear here in parsha Tetzaveh and does not appear earlier in parsha Trumah, where the construction of the mishkan and the other holy vessels is described?

The Kli Yakar explores the purpose and characteristics of the construction of the inner alter in his commentary on this verse. He starts off by saying that both the external and internal alters served to atone for a sinned soul. The copper (external) alter comes to atone for the materialistic and physical sins, for on it animals are brought to be sacrificed in one's place, since an animal resembles the physical side of man. The animals sacrificed on the external alter bear resemblance to the animalistic side of man.

Yet also the soul itself needs atonement, after it has been impurified by the body, and our soul is not atoned for by the animal, since there is no comparative resemblance between a man's soul within animals. As said by Shlomo HaMelech, "Who knows that the spirit of the children of men is that which ascends on high and the spirit of the beast is that which descends below to the earth?" (Kohelet 3:21). How can the temporary essence of an animal be compared to the immortal essence of man?

Thus The Living G-d commanded us to make an incense alter (internal alter) that will raise up a fragrance to Hashem, and to atone for the spirit of man that rises up high like the smoke of the incense. "Who is this coming up from the desert, like columns of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, of all the powder of the peddler?" (Shir HaShirim 3:6) of good deeds.

This comes to teach us and place in our hearts [this feeling] as it says "And you shall crush some of it very finely" (Shmot 30:36), making an allusion to the soul being an extremely brittle entity and also needs atonement in order to go up to the place that it was hewn from [to heaven].

The Kli Yakar continues to explain that the dimensions of the inner alter further testify to the unique qualities of the soul. The width and length are both measured in one unit, an amah each, alluding to the nature of the soul which is a single unit paralleling G-d being one. The height is two amot, alluding to the inherent nature of the soul which strives to always go higher. 

Another side which the internal alter parallels the nature of man's soul is in the inner alter's operations. The time for placing incense on the inner alter is in the morning and in the evening. The soul arrives, seemingly born, at sunrise and in the evening the soul returns to the Our Father, and we should wish that the soul comes and goes without sin. 

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